the story: Worf must choose between the mission and saving Jadzia's life.
what it's all about: This has always been a difficult episode for me. I get that it puts a strong focus on a relationship that had become integral to the middle part of the series, but at a steep cost. It never felt authentic to me, like one of those impossible fiction scenarios superheroes normally get, who normally get to have it both ways. Well, this being the increasingly grim Deep Space Nine, Worf most certainly does not get it both ways. He seems to sacrifice his future professional potential because he can't bear to think of losing his wife.
Look, and I had the same thoughts when it originally aired, but the whole thing becomes that much harder to defend in hindsight, because...ten episodes later it becomes a moot point anyway. I can accept that Terry Farrell forced the producers' hand by the end of the season, deciding she wanted to leave, and they killed off the character to solve her absence, and that none of that had necessarily played out in the writers room at the time "Change of Heart" was first conceived, but...It just seems egregious, thinking about that now. It doesn't even count as foreshadowing, because the situations that play out here and when she actually dies are nothing alike. In one, Worf has the chance to save her, in the other ("Tears of the Prophets," the season finale) it's completely random.
So it makes Worf look good and it makes him look bad, forsaking what had previously been a fairly defining characteristic, his overriding sense of duty, which actually got him into trouble far more often. So to have him finally forsake his duty, you'd really need a story that is itself defensible, not something that relies on backstory. Yes, we know, from the episode, that they've recently gotten married ("You Are Cordially Invited," nine episodes earlier), and that at least for part of the episode, Worf and Jadzia are still enjoying newlywed bliss. But it rapidly becomes something else. It would actually be better if the whole episode, we know she has the potential to die. Like "In the Pale Moonlight" a few episodes later, it would be better if the whole thing were told from Worf's perspective. It would've been a completely different Michael Dorn experience. Too often he seems remote, unapproachable. His relationships, with Troi (Next Generation) and Jadzia were always calculated as ways of thawing him out a little. And yet...the Worf in this episode is just as frozen as he ever was. It gets in the way of the story.
To my mind, it's just not executed very well, and yes, I've had that thought from the very beginning, and I've never changed my mind. Maybe I just can't stand that Worf has to stand there, at the end, and listen to Sisko warning him about how bad a career move it was, regardless of whether or not it was the right thing to do. It only further alienates a character who still has only the one link to his second series, the character who was very nearly removed from the board during the episode. And who will be. And then we'll actually see where Worf stands. Because we don't see that in "Heart." It somewhat ironically lacks heart because of that.
franchise- Aside from Voyager's "Thirty Days," has any main character been so thoroughly compromised in the midst of doing the right thing? series- Technically a Dominion War story, but that part is a complete afterthought.
- character - Here's where you find your reason to consider this episode, whether or not it says something useful about Worf.
essential- No, it's not.